State v. Heise-Fay
Case # A150955
Full Text of Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/A150955.pdf
This case arose when three Department of Human Services employees, a Parole Officer, two detectives, a Sergeant, and a K-9 deputy approached defendant’s house from the front and the back. When defendant answered the front door, one DHS worker informed defendant that they were responding to a tip that an absconded parolee and a possible drug operation were located on the premises and that children were present at the residence. The defendant initially denied that the absconded parolee was present, however, law enforcement located him hiding in the backyard. A detective then began questioning defendant about what she knew regarding the absconded parolee they had found and if there was a marijuana grow located on the property. During this time, law enforcement remained calm and cordial and assured defendant that she would not be taken to jail as long as she was honest and cooperative. Defendant eventually admitted that she was aware of the parolee’s presence and showed law enforcement the grow operation which exceeded that allowed by the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act. At this point, the defendant was presented with and signed a consent to search form that included Miranda warnings on the back. During the search of the premises, law enforcement found additional marijuana plants and evidence of drug sales. The defendant was verbally mirandized, indicated that she understood the warnings, and admitted to selling marijuana. Defendant was then cited for crimes related to the unlawful manufacture, delivery, and possession of marijuana, hindering prosecution, child neglect, and endangering the welfare of a minor.
Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence, based on the contention that law enforcement officers failed to give her Miranda warnings under compelling circumstances as required by Article 1, section 12 of the Oregon Constitution and the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, was denied by the trial court. Defendant ultimately entered a guilty plea, reserving her right to appeal the trial courts ruling, and was convicted for unlawful delivery of marijuana, hindering prosecution, and two counts of endangering the welfare of a minor.
The Court first states that “Miranda warnings must be given before questioning when a person is in ‘full custody’ or in ‘circumstances that create a setting which judges would and officers should recognize to be compelling.’” Compelling circumstances arise when a “reasonable person in the suspect’s position would have felt compelled to answer a police officer’s questions.” The Court continues by stating that “the non-exclusive factors we consider to make [the determination of whether or not circumstances are compelling] include (1) the location of the encounter; (2) the length of the encounter; (3) the amount of pressure exerted on the defendant, including whether an officer has used evidence of guilt in a coercive manner; and (4) the defendant’s ability to terminate the encounter.” Additional factors the court considers include “the number of officers and police cars at the scene, the demeanor of the investigating officer, and the use of physical force or confinement during questioning.”
In this case, the Court focused on the moment when the officer “told defendant that he knew that she had lied about [the parolees] whereabouts, that she could be in trouble for hindering prosecution in doing so, and that he had no intention of arresting her if she was honest and cooperative.” This moment occurred before the defendant had received the written Miranda warnings or been verbally advised of her Miranda rights. The Court finds that once the officer “confronted defendant with evidence that she had committed a crime, his statement that he had no intention of taking her into custody if she was honest and cooperative would have indicated to a reasonable person that it was within his discretion to arrest her and that he was strongly considering doing so, unless she was honest and cooperative” thus making the encounter coercive and a constitutional violation. Additionally, the Court finds that the presence of DHS workers, who could potentially take the defendant’s children, added to the coercive nature of the encounter. The Court further finds that the evidence obtained after the defendant consented to the search of the premises, and the evidence obtained after the defendant belatedly received Miranda warnings and consented to further questioning, were the product of the constitutional violation and therefore all physical and testimonial evidence obtained after the encounter became coercive should have been suppressed by the trial court. Therefore, the case is reversed and remanded.